Another Digital Concept Magazine

- - The Future

Publisher Bonnier worked with design agency BERG to come up with the Mag+ tablet:

via, Gizmodo

I like this guy already because he says the page flipping is lame (my word) and scrolling is more natural. I also like the idea where you find the things you’re interested in reading in an image based environment and then when you want to drill down in a story the images fade back and it becomes a pure reading experience. This allows the device to be quite small. Of course, photography is so critical to the future of media, I can’t overstate how well it works to communicate ideas quickly and helps you navigate a ton of information.

The only critical piece of the puzzle left here (besides building the damn thing) is the price. This is where the magazine industry will inevitably drop the ball because they’d quickly like to get back to the large profits they were used to. I think cell phone pricing will be critical for mass adoption. The device should be $100 or even free and then users will pay for a tiered number of magazines or articles to look at each month and lock into one and two year plans. On the other hand if they want to charge $800 for the device the yearly subscription for a magazine should be $1. The cost of making a copy and distributing it is zero. I would pay the dollar to have access to a bunch of magazines where I might read a couple articles a year or only look at the pictures. Sort of a newsstand type of arrangement.

The publishing industry is looking a little brighter these days. Just in time.

thx, anthea.

There Are 32 Comments On This Article.

  1. Interesting, but not radically different than the Time Inc. example, which is not too different from a website. It seems everyone’s betting on the tablet.

    Another more profound issue is dealing with people’s shortening attention spans. While they don’t want to “interrupt the core reading experience”, that’s exactly where the fundamental changes are occurring.

  2. laurence zankowski

    rob,
    two links first:

    http://www.cesweb.org/exhibits/displays/techZones.asp#3270

    http://www.quereader.com/

    The flood of product starts again, however it seems that this is to get out there before Apple releases their tablet device. It reminds me of what magic link and magic cap were trying to do back in the early 90′s.

    I have been in some heated debates over scrolling vs “page flip”. I even do my web work as horizontal. I feel this type of approach will be adopted quite quickly. Gestural will be the buzz word of 2010, Ha!

    Now, if we can make sure we see no browser interface but a pure CSS3 – HTML 5 content rendering engine, WOW! no flash, big photos, fast refresh of content as it changes. This could be a the change that is needed to get journalism back on track.

    More thoughts later.

  3. Why not just wait a year or so for an iphone/reader? I don’t want another device just to read a mag.

    I like the big pictures, though. Will everyone just shoot horizontal now and rely on a p.e. to crop to vert for the “covers”?

  4. I like this concept a lot.

    However, one of my concerns is the longevity of data. I subscribe to a lot of magazines, and while I don’t necessarily keep every single copy permanently, I like to have them around for a while. And some do find their way to my bookshelves, where they may be kept permanently.

    A great feature for this service would be a “digital bookshelf” where you can keep all of your old magazines and review them; even if you no longer subscribe to that particular mag.

    One thing these guys really seem to understand is that while look-and-feel may vary magazine-to-magazine, the navigation should be identical. This becomes even more important if these guys wind up using that format to set the standard for all the readers.

    The price point will be very interesting. I think paper and fulfillment are the two biggest expenses in magazine publishing, and if they can kill off print altogether, or greatly reduce volume, I wonder what cover price and sub price will look like on this device?

    I suppose it’s too much to hope for that with lowered costs, the publishers will pay more to the writers, designers, editors and photographers…

    • @Will Seberger,
      What about print on demand for issues you want a copy of. That seems like a reasonable solution. Maybe they can gang those in with the regular press run because you don’t need a copy instantly.

      The other thing that’s important initially is that it’s easy to port a magazine to this device. This one seems dead simple in the layout department. If they can import InDesign documents it will save publishers 100′s of thousands in converting for a device.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        On-demand printing could work for my “archiving” purposes, and would be a great option anyway, in case I’d just like to have a print version of a single issue.

        But it would be really great if the service would let me keep and electronic archive of what I paid for anyway; in addition to letting me order an on-demand dead tree version.

        Magazines don’t force you to return or destroy the dead tree issues now. It would be unfortunate if they could force you to delete older issues as new ones come out on devices like these.

  5. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for putting this piece up. I love the platform, and from what I hear in my meetings, it is the way all the big magazine people are going. Interesting how BERG is imagining putting stills on what is a fully motion capable platform. I don’t get it. Why would someone do that? Here and there, yes. Stills are great. But to think that the entire magazine would be stills? No way. That is not what I am seeing. Call me a radical, but the days of the stills only shoot are almost over. Check out Nick Nights comments in the latest Aperature, which I fully agree with. There is nothing that I see anywhere in any image generation technology or image consuming technology that is in any way remotely positive for stills. There will always be photographers, just like there will always be illustrators. If I were about to go off to college today, I would be studying motion image technology, not stills.

    Best wishes,

    David

    • @David Harry Stewart,
      I believe the opposite. While I think that using a photographer to shoot video will save companies lots of money and it also makes sense for magazines and newspapers to capture video to “fill out” a story I think video is the worst medium of all for conveying information and grabbing attention in a world of 2 second attention spans.

      Additionally, I think it’s a recipe for disaster for magazines and newspaper to go up against television. You can’t compete on that level without destroying your core competencies. It think there’s room for it all without convergence.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Will Steacy has an interesting take on this on his blog (http://bit.ly/7RDFwN). He leans more to David Harry Stewart’s point about the dominance of the moving image. And he makes a compelling argument.

        In a perfect world, I think you’d be right Rob, but I do fear that storytelling, from journalism to feature stories in magazines, will look more like this piece from VII’s Christopher Morris (http://bit.ly/8DpQ2u) in the future.

        It just seems that everyone is adopting video. It’s in our still cameras and it’s being adopted by almost every content provider.

  6. All this is sooo cool but my question is how do we carry all this stuff around. Before we can leave the house these days we need to run out and grab out camera, phone, labtops, and now this mag. thing. Its all but super cool.

    Of course i still want one.

    • @john hildebrand,
      Have you been out and bought half a dozen magazines? Although most are half thickness these days, they still weigh a ton!
      Definitely want one of these bad boys for Xmass

  7. last months magazines are on their way to being pulped and recycled into new paper products. Can we say the same thing of last years computers?

    I like the idea, the promise, but I see ourselves trading one finite resource for another, wood for rare earth metals. The toxicity of recycling computers really needs to be a priority, otherwise this mag reader is just another cell phone, billions of which are ending up in landfill or being “recycled” in a non-friendly manner.

    we can grow more trees, we can’t make more lithium. maybe we can grow fireflies who like to sit side by side in tiny tiny rows and glow to our demands!

    also, I think we like our industrial designers to have english accents! (Ive, Dyson)

  8. Thanks for posting this.

    I find the whole development of new communication streams to evolve the publishing industry fascinating, and actually quite exciting for the possibilities.

    Whilst I really like their thinking on the user experience and interface, I would personally, as a consumer, prefer this to be an full application (rather than iPhone App) available on the Apple iPad (or whatever it turns out to be), that I could then subscribe to, to access the ‘magazines’ rather than a proprietary piece of hardware. That way i could potentially access multiple publishers stables of publications, whilst only having to carry one main device.

    I should say I’d like to see the iPad (?) have the majority of the functionality of a laptop, though, so it could become the main portable device away from the desk, rather than just a media reader/streamer/big iPod, leaving the need for a laptop as well. Similar to what John was saying above.

    Exciting time of flux.

    Cheers

    Matt

    • @Matt Laver,

      I’d like to be able to tether to Capture One with an iPad. If I could do that I’d never own another laptop. :D

      • @c.d.embrey,

        Amen to that!

        Leaf Capture for me, currently, but wouldn’t it make a great location tether solution! Add an HDMI port for use as an external monitor (for filmmaking…) and we’d really be talking!

  9. Page flips suck. Hasselblad’s Victor Magazine on line or California Sunbounce’s online catalog are two great examples of what not to do!

    Both horizontal an vertical is a great idea — double trucks without gutters and no annoying up & down scrolling to read two column text.

    CSS3 and HTML5 is a good idea but you can be sure the MicroSoft and Apple will have their own competing Magazine OSs — not to mention the Open Source readers that will pop-up. Looks like Browser Wars The Sequel is on the horizon.

    Videos don’t belong in magazines, but a link to their web site video would be good. I say this as some-one who has just waited 15 min for the Mag+ video to down-load to my laptop. BTW I’m using Verizon’s 3G net — about as good as it gets. If sometime in the future they come up with a way to instantly load video into a wireless device then video would be great (I come from a motion background, not print).

  10. Andrew Pinkham

    Hate to be the downer but it’s just another way to serve up and repackage content . If the story is truly worthwhile, the medium isn’t going to make or break it in the end.

  11. I wonder how much consumer research is done. I would rather have access on a laptop than a tablet. I have enough stuff to carry why would I want something else the size of a magazine that isn’t pliable. If there were advances for laptops screens to be touch capable then you got something. I like the format better than anything else I have seen, simple is king with me.

    Great job Rob.

  12. I do NOT want to read computers. I have too many gadgets as it is. Reading is my pleasure. I do a lot of it. I also spend a LOT of time at the computer working and marketing. I will continue to read print magazines and books and do my part to destroy the rain forest. I LIKE magazines and books on PAPER. End of rant. Thank you.

  13. I am 25 years old. I stopped buying my favorite magazine, PC Gamer, at age 14, when I realised I could find it all online, instantaneously. I haven’t bought any magazines since.

    The notion that some magic machine is going to bring back the traditional magazine is an illusion. The product is no longer needed.

    The future lies in rethinking the reading experience. We call it webpages and bookmarks for a reason you see. It’s all in relation to printed media. I can scroll with my hands in a 500 year old book. It hasn’t changed. But it’s going to.

    We will see a collapsed media flow, where channels integrate into each other. I won’t read “a magazine”, not on paper and not on a tricoder. I will dip my fingers into the media flow and find the information that is relevant to me. And I won’t look at any ads.

  14. All of you have really great points and I look forward to any device that will enhance and possibly make my online magazine profitable. My magazine flips and its actually one of the features that my readers like. It separates the magazine from the blog experience. We are looking for a technical business partner who can advance our publication and begin to make it profitable. We have been noted as one of the top on line magazines by The New York Times. Takw a look and let me know your thoughts and/or interests. http://www.unvogue.com.

    Best,
    Ken

  15. In light of the latest travel restriction changes, I think any new electronic device is going to be severely limited. I am even starting to wonder about carrying a laptop on flights anymore. Other than phones, I think portable electronics are in jeopardy.

  16. Another device called the Skiff, backed by Hearst Publishing. They already have an agreement with Sprint, and are building in WiFi. Pricing and plan options, or subscription data not yet reported:

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/04/skiff-reader-is-largest-reader-yet-will-be-hitting-a-sprint-sto/

    I have to wonder at the relative success of such devices, though this is promising technology. Publications are largely advertising funded, and not subscription funded. WiFi or 3G delivery might reduce costs, but will there be enough users to justify the ad rates, or will those fall lower than internet ad rates?

  17. That is not what I am seeing. Call me a radical, but the days of the stills only shoot are almost over. Check out Nick Nights comments in the latest Aperature, which I fully agree with. There is nothing that I see anywhere in any image generation technology or image consuming technology that is in any way remotely positive for stills. There will always be photographers, just like there will always be illustrators. If I were about to go off to college today, I would be studying motion image technology, not stills.

  18. I do presume, that the device is assumed to be wireless or 3G connected – you only need an additional microchip and a tiny SIM-card in your device. I.e. I can as a reader, buy any magazine, paper, book etc. whenever I will, or wherever I will …